Friday, August 27, 2010

College

Sorry for my lack of blogging. So as many of you know I started college this week. Once I get settled in I'll start to blog more. I'm taking two different Literature classes so that might be interesting to talk about. I promise I'll be back soon.
Happy Reading!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

What are you reading?

As some of you know, YA author Ellen Hopkins was uninvited to the Teen Lit Festival in Humble, TX after a librarian and some parents went to the superintendent and asked for her to be removed from the program. In the aftermath, authors Melissa de la Cruz, Pete Hautman, Tera Lynn Childs and Matt de la Pena withdrew from the festival to protest the censorship.
After hearing of this problem I thought back to an article I wrote last year for my school newspaper. We were doing an issue with all controversial topics for our final exam. It didn’t take me long to choose my topic because it was around the time Lauran Myracle’s book Luv Ya Bunches caused a problem at the Scholastic Book Fair. After two months of research, emails and awkward interviews, my story was published. The only thing was I couldn’t be bias. So this article explores both sides. (PS: It’s also my first draft. The edited copy is on the school computer.)

WHAT ARE YOU READING?

In this day and age, the media is constantly changing. The internet is at its high point, and newspapers and television are rapidly trying to keep up with it. Despite all of the technology the twenty-first century has brought us, books, have not changed. Books will always have that familiar smell, and there will always be somebody offended by its content.

For years, there has been controversy about what kinds of books go into schools. Many books have been pulled out of school library shelves and taken off high school reading lists. English teacher Mrs. Cynthia Brosnan voiced her opinion on book banning. “The main reason was that they [book banners] considered the material obscene or showed people in a bad light,” she stated. “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was banned because it showed the stereotypes of racism in the 1800s. It made white people look really bad because they held slaves and used the N-word. There were con men, hucksters and vigilantes all portrayed by white people. The only noble person in the book was Jim.”

Today, the book controversy grows on. The Kite Runner, a book on the senior’s required reading list, became one of the most challenged books in 2008 for its language and sexual content.

“Most of the books that we taught at Clay High School at one point or another were banned,” Mrs. Brosnan continued. “Catcher in the Rye was banned because of its language. The F-bomb was dropped many times.”

Other than the classrooms, school libraries are another key place where books are taken off the shelves due to explicit materials. “As a school librarian, I feel that some books’ content is not appropriate for a certain age of students,” Mrs. Angie Bitner-Westen, the librarian, stated. “I am not ‘censoring’ to a point where the book is not viewed by anyone, but rather viewed but a more mature audience. I believe that if the book deals with an issue that might affect teens—example teen pregnancy, drugs, parent with relationship abuse—that is okay. However, if it is an explicit romance novel, that is something else.”

Mr. Al Large, the Director of Instructional Technology and Library Services for the South Bend Community School Corporation, had faced controversial book issues many times for different reasons. “There have been instances when a parent has objected to a book,” he said. “For example, one parent objected to the cover of the book, Monsters You Have Never Heard Of by Daniel Cohen. The parent thought that the cover resembled a beast representing the devil, which offended her religious convictions. Another parent objected to Scary Stories 3 -- More Tales to Chill Your Bones by Alvin Schwartz because of some of the illustrations and a belief that the book promoted violence. Another parent objected to Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor, a Newbery Award book, because of the offensive language. The story shows the racial tension in America during 1933.”

“Each parent thought that she/he was representing the best interest of her/his child,” Mr. Large stated. “The reality is that each one of us could probably walk into any library (school, public, or academic) and find books that are objectionable from our individual perspectives.”

In loco parentis is Latin for ‘in place of the parent.” This means while the student is in school, the corporation is responsible for them. “Public libraries are not bound by it [in loco parentis],” Ms. Marianne Kruppa, a librarian at the Francis Branch said. “When it comes to public libraries it falls on the parent to monitor what the child reads. It is not our responsibility to say you can and cannot read that.”

If a parent objects to a book in the public library, the librarian cannot just remove it from the shelves permanently. The patron is asked to fill out a “Patron Request for Reconsideration of Library Material Form.” The purpose of the form is a request to move the book to a section that is more appropriate for that age group. The form asks questions about the book and why the parent found it offensive. The first and most important question on the form that Ms. Kruppa pointed out was “Have you read the entire book?” If the patron has not read the book in its entirety, they may miss relevant information and misinterpret the context. After they fill out the form, the librarians will review it and decided whether or not it should stay in its designated section.

In an interview with momlogic.com back in November, Lauren Myracle, author of the bestselling Young Adult series The Internet Girls (one of the most challenged books for 2008 and 2009,) explained her dilemma with Scholastic Book Club and Book Fair about her Middle Grade novel Luv Ya Bunches. They had a problem with some of the content in the book. “They mentioned wanting us to address the fact that one of the characters, Mila, has two moms,” Mrs. Myracle explained. “I said we’d do the other stuff, but not that. The whole point was to have a cast of main characters that reflect the diversity of today’s elementary schools. The moms’ lesbianism is incidental. It's not a plot point or the source of some big lesson in the book. Just like there's a half Asian girl, an African-American girl who lives just with her dad, and a Muslim girl who wears a headscarf, there's a girl with two moms.”

Eventually, the Book Club accepted Luv Ya Bunches after some of the slightly crude language was changed, but the Book Fair would not take it if the sex of one of the parents was not changed.

“This isn't censorship, per se,” Mrs. Myracle stated. “This is a private company deciding what can and can't be included among the products they decide to sell.”

Throughout the halls, students carry books of all genres from class to class, ranging from Teen Vampire Romances such as Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight to spiritual books like The Shack by William P. Young. Is there a book in the mix that someone finds too inappropriate or controversial? Junior Betsy Cook gave her thoughts on what she would do if she started reading one. “I would probably just stop reading it,” she said. “But sometimes it depends on how inappropriate it is. I don’t think it is a good idea to let your child read a book like that if it’s against the parent’s morals.”

Kaitlyn Miner, a junior, explained her experience with books and its mature content. “In the sixth grade I read Empress of the World. It’s a book about a girl who goes to summer camp, sees a pretty girl and becomes a lesbian,” Kaitlyn said. “In the sixth grade of course I thought that was controversial. But when I re-read it in eighth grade I was MUCH more accepting.”

“I feel like books can’t corrupt people,” Kaitlyn continued. “Books are meant to make you feel, so if Harry Potter makes you want to become a Wiccan, so be it!”

Whether you object to certain content in book or the author that wrote it, everyone has the First Amendment-right of freedom of speech.

This article was published in The Colonial in January 2010.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Revising, Writing and Chocolate

Yeah I’m procrastinating. Right now I should be finishing up putting in my final revisions for my manuscript on the computer before I requery.

This little bugger needs another 4k
What I’m really doing is staring at the document on my computer thinking “why am I doing this?” I should have given up earlier this year when the rejections were coming in by the truck load. The reason I haven’t is simple. I truly believe everything happens for a reason.

Back in high school I was an active member of the drama club. When I auditioned for one of the plays at the end of the year, I didn’t get in. I was crushed. I worked so hard at my audition and to top it all of it was my senior year. Devastated, I stared doubting myself and wondered if I was cut out for show business. A few weeks later my friend told me about a play the local theatre was having auditions for. She explained that the role I should audition for would be good fit for me. So a few weeks later I auditioned and got the lead role.

In the end everything really did happen for a reason. If I would’ve made my school play I never would have auditioned for the other one and got the lead. The same thing goes for querying. Maybe all those rejections telling me the manuscript is “not the right fit” really means it’s not the right fit. Maybe one day I’ll find the right fit just like I did with the part. Who knows? The right fit could be my dream agent.

However, I did do a lot of research on the play before I auditioned. (Life Lesson) The same should go with querying. RESEARCH AND FOLLOW GUIDELINES!!! There was one time, ONE TIME, I did not follow guidelines. Boy did I feel like an idiot. That won’t happen again.

To the right you see my zombie cell phone. When it dies it comes back to life. Mug is not filled with coffee.
Now that it’s all out, what am I doing now? Well I’m defiantly surprised I used now twice in a sentence. Currently I’m staring at my hard copy thinking “I can do this…and this might not be my final revisions after all. Oh I hope I get this done before I leave for school. I’ll be too busy when I get there to finish this. I want some chocolate. There’s pudding in the fridge. Wait no it’s moose pudding. Did I use the right moose? I should check, there should be a u in it. Phone’s ringing, crap.” Okay that was long. Well I got my pudding mousse and spoon. Yum. Now it’s time to dig into this manuscript and GIT-R-DONE!

Happy reading!
Yummy Mousse Pudding.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Chocolate with Nuts

Hey everyone. Sorry that I've been a bad blogger. This past month has been pretty busy. I had to balance work, writing, closing a play, preparing for college, and getting in some friend time before I leave. You forgive me right?
Not only have I been a bad blogger, but I've been a bad reader also. In all honesty I did not read more than two books last month. I'm still going to read the Sarah Dessen books like I promised, but it's been rough. I've started many books I just never had time to finish them. Maybe since I own most of the books I started, I don't need to rush to finish them before I needed to return them. I bought a book that a book club was reading at my local Barnes and Noble. I only got halfway through it by the end of the month. Needless to say I didn't go to the meeting. (I also forgot about it.)
On the other hand, I have been writing a little bit. My manuscript is on hold at the moment because my friend is reading the hard copy I printed out to edit. Lucky for me she promised to edit it and give me notes. So while the manuscript is away the writer will play. I have been playing with a lot of stories that I shoved behind while I was on my insane query quest. So with my new found freedom I've enjoyed working on other pieces for a change.
As for chocolate. My mom wanted me to talk about nuts. I hate all nuts other than peanuts and cashews. I hate it when my mom gets a can of mixed nuts instead of just peanuts. Then I end up eating all of the peanuts and cashews and that causes problems. Nuts in chocolate it a different story though. I can eat chocolate with almond pieces just fine.I like the crunch. However, if you give me a chocolate covered almond I will eat the chocolate and throw away a perfectly good almond. That's just me. Don't get me started on walnut brownies. The point is I'm not so nuts about nuts.
As you know it's still Reading, Writing and Chocolate's Summer Reading Edition and I'm suppose to give a challenge for the month. Well since I failed at all of my challenges and my life is a little hectic, I'm not going to give a challenge. Instead I say go out and read, write and eat chocolate. I'm going to try to blog once a week and read a lot more before I go to school. I'll continue to write while working on my manuscript. Also, I'll keep an eye out for new chocolate treats to share with you.
Happy Reading!